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***In the House of the Queen’s Beasts

by Jean Thesman

Reviewed September 30, 2002.
Viking, 2001.  167 pages.

In the House of the Queen Beasts is something of a beginner’s Young Adult Novel.  My friend Kristin Wolden Nitz talks about the “4 D’s” of modern Young Adult Literature—Death, Divorce, Drunkenness and Dysfunction.  (I’m not absolutely sure I have that right, but that’s the idea.)  This book has three of the four (no Death), but they’re all off-stage.  Our main character is dealing with the thought of these things, but doesn’t come right up against them.  She’s coming from a position of a nice, safe family life.

The book opens when fourteen-year-old Emily and her blended family move into a new house the summer before she starts high school.  Her plastic surgery is completed, and she no longer has the disfiguring scar that ruined her life and friendships for the past two years.

The wonderful new house has a tree house in the backyard, and Rowan, the girl from the house behind theirs, has been a regular guest in the tree house.  She’s carved “the Queen’s Beasts” out of wood, and they decorate the windowsill.

As Emily gets to know Rowan, she discovers a new friend like she’s never had before.  She learns again about making friendships.  Rowan has secrets, though, and disturbing shouts come from her house at night.

It was hard to decide whether to call this children’s fiction or young adult.  It would be best for kids in between those two categories, who are ready to understand that there are difficult problems out there, but still feel safer thinking about them in the context of a loving family and a safe, private place between friends.

Another book by Jean Thesman:


 Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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